Gov. Chris Christie placed blame for the lengthy delay in approval of a Hurricane Sandy Relief bill squarely on the shoulders of combative U.S. House of Representative Republicans, and specifically, Speaker John Boehner.
Christie offered a scathing rebuke of Boehner and waffling Republicans during a press conference in Trenton Wednesday afternoon, saying Congress has failed in its primary purpose, to protect its own citizens. Residents of New York and New Jersey are being used as pawns in a game of politics, he said, and that's why this country's citizens "hate" Washington D.C.
"Last night, politics was placed before help for our citizens," Christie said. "For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch."
Christie said he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been working tirelessly with officials of every level of government, all the way to the White House, in an effort to determine the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and develop a fair relief package.
Both he and Cuomo where given assurances beginning this past weekend and even Tuesday night that the proposed $60.4 billion aid package would be voted on by the House of Representatives just as soon as the fiscal cliff was addressed. Congress found a resolution for that, but tabled the Sandy package.
Blame for that, Christie said, falls on one man.
"All I can tell you was that this was the Speaker's decision, his alone," Christie said about Boehner's apparent decision to table the aid package.
Christie began his presser by offering a disaster roll call. Hurricane Andrew made landfall on Aug. 24, 1992. President George Bush and Congress signed an initial relief package into law in 17 days. Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005. In just 10 days, more than $60 billion in aid was signed into law. Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike both caused significant damage when they hit land in 2008. In a little over two weeks, an aid package was signed into law.
Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey's coast on Oct. 29, causing an estimated $37 billion in property damage in this state alone. It's been 66 days, Christie said, and Congress has done nothing.
Unfortunately, Christie said, the bill could not overcome the "toxic internal politics of the House majority," and for that, he blames Boehner.
Christie said politics have always been put aside when it comes to responding to a disaster. Following this disaster, with Congress caught up in the politics of what he called a "fake fiscal cliff," some leaders crossed the aisle to find a funding solution. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor both took to the floor to petition for the aid package in a moment of bipartisanship Christie said many thought they might never see.
Republican and Democrat leaders from Sandy-impacted states have been joined by Republicans and Democrats in the the Gulf States affected by Katrina in support of the aid package. Christie said he's been on the phone with Cantor, who has promised to continue working toward approving the aid package. Christie called Obama, who promised to do his best.
When Christie called Boehner last night to find out why the Sandy package had been dropped from 112th Congress's to-do list - four times, in fact - he said did not receive a call back.
"New Jersey deserves better than the duplicity we saw on display last night," Christie said. "America deserves better."
Disasters aren't limited to Red states or Blue states, Christie said. It's a reality many in Congress, but not all, understand. Christie also noted New Jersey and New York's position as donor states, who pay far more in taxes to the federal government each year than they get in return.
Ultimately, Christie said it's up the responsible members of Congress to ensure this bill passes.
“Our only hope is for the good people to prevail in Congress," he said.